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History of Art Program

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The study of the history of art cultivates a deep understanding of humanity’s fundamental impulse to create. It traces how artists across all time periods and regions confronted their environment, society, and religion, and thereby produced artifacts of lasting resonance and insight into the cultural practices of the time. Such acts of visual expression find diverse articulation as works of painting, sculpture, graphics, architecture, urbanism, garden design and spectacle, as well as the stunning versatility of modern and contemporary media. Whereas studio artists dedicate themselves to the making of art and catalyzing the further evolution of these media, the program in the history of art promotes a retrospective analysis of the art of the past, while critically engaging the art of the present.

The History of Art major emphasizes the modes of inquiry it shares with other fields that analyze cultural activity, such as semiotics, social history, psychoanalysis, and gender studies. The critical study of art cultivates knowledge of religious, aesthetic, social, theoretical, and economic principles. Students achieve a solid familiarity with the core monuments and major artists as well as trends from each of the principal subfields: Ancient and Medieval; Renaissance and Baroque; Modern and Contemporary; and Non-Western. A global perspective is a fundamental aspect of this program and the faculty specializes in the art and architecture of Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. In association with the Rose Art Museum, students have extraordinary resources for the study of twentieth-century and contemporary art.

Core Skill

History of Art majors develop the following skills and techniques in this program:

  • Ability to analyze the formal principles of architecture, sculpture, painting, photography, and graphic arts, as well as contemporary media such as film, performance, and video
  • Master the terminology of the discipline, so that visual analysis can be accurately and engagingly conveyed in both oral and written form
  • Understanding of the critical tools for identifying and classifying works of art according to period, geographic origin, school, artist, and/or stage in an artist’s artistic development
  • Refined capacity to think critically, both in the process of visual analysis and in the evaluation of contemporary sources and scholarly literature
  • Mastery of gathering evidence and presenting findings clearly and compellingly as a persuasive argument in both written and oral form; namely research skills
  • Basic proficiency in some aspect of studio art – painting, sculpture, printmaking, architectural design and/or digital media – to enhance comprehension of the techniques and ingenuity of the artists studied

View courses offered in History of Art.
View major and minor requirements in History of Art.